It has become terribly fashionable to eschew the lure of bustling airports, cumulating air miles and foreign shores in favour of our more local coastlines and Sainsbury’s sent me this delightful edible map of the British Isles as an incentive to discuss this phenomena. I might be quite unique in my lack of experience of domestic holidaying – my father’s airline job meant that as a child we got to sample the exotica of Greek islands, Perth – Australia, France and many miles and states of the US. Whilst my peers were discussing caravanning and camping in the Isle of Wight, Guernsey and Wales I had never experienced these types of holidays so couldn’t share their reminiscences of rock pools and buckets and spades. Though this isn’t entirely the case as I was taken for day trips to Southport, Buxton and Blackpool by my grandparents but my donkey riding exploits are very few and far between.
Coincidentally I have taken the trendy step of delaying my much anticipated photography holiday in the Dordogne for a week in ‘sunny’ Norfolk. And therein lies the rub, those of us familiar with a British summertime know how unreliable the ‘summer’ weather can be and have been seeking more dependable climes for our hard-won summer holiday fortnight for years but now the general consensus is that in these straightened times we should pack our waterproofs, our umbrellas and be more faithful to the rich diversity of rain-soaked destinations on our doorstep. And yes, I could just be being dramatically gloomy; we do have fabulously sunny days in Britain- sometimes. I’ve seen them on the front pages of our red-topped newspapers accompanied by pictures of happy people cooling off in municipal fountains, or packed like ants on the beaches complaining of a lack of deckchairs and nursing blistered foreheads. The latter is due to the unfortunate pastime many have, myself included, resorted to due to the vagaries of our weather – the act of sun binging. If like our continental cousins we could expect day after day of unbroken blue skies we could ration our sun worshipping to acceptable levels and sensibly build up a healthy glow. But when the sun graces us with its presence the temptation to soak up every last ray not knowing when it will be back round again is curiously compelling. Like many others, I have over indulged by the simple act of taking a book to the park and absorbing too many hours of precious sunbeams and then regretting it the next day when my sun gorging has carved its revenge on my pale skin. Generally now I am more sensible, we know what dangers lurk in such practices so I favour my sunglasses and large brimmed hats rather than bronzed limbs.
I guess if we had reliable seasons we’d never discuss the weather and everyone knows the British are always curiously obsessed with weather. We rejoice when an unseasonal day raises our temperatures above those of a typically hotter spot or we contact our relatives back home and hear of wind and rain whilst we are toasting ourselves faraway.
So really the only way we can possibly embrace a more domestic holiday is get beyond the weather and appreciate all the other delights Britain has to offer. And we truly do, the rugged coastline of Cornwall has understandably sent our painters and authors in to raptures for many a year. The lush green mountains and endless pools of the Lake District have enamoured many others. The islands and highlands of Scotland have awestruck many and our native flora and fauna have much to inspire. We can stay in quaint sandy stone cottages or rambling manor houses and marvel at the towering majesty of the country’s castles and ancient monuments. Those of us that live in the cities can abandon commuting, the train strikes and the pollution in search of peace in the countryside where you are woken up by over-enthusiastic cocks crowing and not car alarms. Those who have cows and sheep as nearest neighbours can leave off jam making for a few days and soak up the bright lights and shiny baubles of the cities.
And wherever we go in Britain we can celebrate the food. It seems that we are now so keen to assimilate the food we experience on our foreign travels into our own culture we have almost forgotten what truly rich pickings we have closer to home. There is no asparagus to beat our own when it’s in its too short season, our strawberries are just the most tastiest and perfect and with the upsurge in allotments and the urging to ‘dig’ ourselves out of our current predicament we are able to appreciate how our native vegetables should taste when it not all about uniformity, year round yields and air freight. Our shorelines are still swimming with the plumpest of seafood, our beef (despite scares) is the finest and there is a cornucopia of regional delicacies waiting to be unearthed and honoured. And just think without this need to hurtle myself halfway across the world I won't have to endure a moment in an airport, be asked if I packed my bag or ponder what on earth is my airline meal supposed to be emulating.
As I plan for my ‘staycation’ as well as ensuring that I’m covered for all that Mother Nature might fling at me I am rather excited about the luscious freshly picked crab and other seafood that lay ahead, the samphire and other sea salads so championed by Mark Hix (himself proud proprietor of a seafood restaurant in another staycationning hotspot – Lyme Regis) and other culinary delights that await. I have been combing local guides for new restaurants to discover as well as few old favourite we are planning to relive. I might not come back with a tan but I will be well-fed, I better pack my fork! Happy staycationing one and all!